Staffing vs Recruiting: What’s the Difference?

Staffing vs recruiting

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You may have a position to fill at your company because an employee is leaving, your business is growing, or you have a project that requires temporary workers. You have two main options to acquire someone new: staffing vs recruiting.

Although many people use these terms interchangeably, there are actually some significant differences between them. Only by understanding both can you decide what would be the right option for your company.

What Is Staffing?

Through staffing, you can fill a role that you currently have open at your company. Typically, staffing is just for short-term positions, such as to support your team at an event or provide a particular service during a project. More than one-third of staffing employees work in the industrial sector, one-quarter are office and clerical workers, and one-fifth are in professional–managerial roles.

The short-term nature of staffing means it’s appealing for people who are out of work (these are called active candidates). It’s unlikely that someone who already has a job would leave it for a staffing position.

It’s common for businesses to use an agency for their staffing needs. Most agencies already have a database of candidates who are looking for short-term work and available to start immediately. The agency screens these candidates and interviews them, providing you with a list of top choices to choose from. You simply pick who you want and provide any information the worker should know about the job beforehand.

An advantage of staffing is that it avoids some of the necessities of recruiting. For instance, there’s no need to provide workers with benefits nor worry about taxes. You may even be able to avoid in-depth background checks.

Staffing Tips

To see the best results from staffing, use an agency that specializes in your industry or the type of skills you require for the position. This will give you access to a large pool of candidates who are well-suited for the job. The exception is if you are seeking a staff member for unskilled labor. In these cases, a general staffing agency will usually suffice.

Note that the best staffing agencies stay in contact with candidates and are always aware of individuals’ availability. Often, the same candidates receive many jobs through the agency. The agency gets to know the candidates well, learning their strengths and weaknesses. This is hugely advantageous for you.

Consider if you may want to keep the worker on at your company. Although staffing is typically for short-term positions, it’s not uncommon for businesses to decide they could benefit from permanent support. Plus, they may develop a good relationship with the workers. As the chance of permanent employment is attractive to some employees, advertising this as a possibility from the start could lead to more committed candidates.

What Is Recruiting?

For permanent, full-time positions, it is more common to use recruiting. The recruitment process can be quite long, as it’s critical to ensure you’re making the right decision.

Many businesses use a recruitment firm, meaning someone else takes on the task of searching for candidates. This includes creating a job posting, assessing resumes, conducting interviews, and arriving at a shortlist of the best options. The firm may also negotiate the contract and manage onboarding for you.

Recruitment firms consider both active candidates and those who are currently employed (passive candidates), although the focus is on passive candidates. The reason for this is that when professionals reach a certain level in their careers, they are rarely out of work but often ready to embrace a new opportunity.

Recruiting Tips

Rather than filling an open position, recruiting often involves creating a new role when a top candidate becomes available. To take advantage of recruitment, you need to be flexible.

However, it is crucial you make the right choice, as the individual could be responsible for key decisions at your company. For instance, if you’re recruiting for an upper-level management position, the individual may influence what direction your business takes, and this will have lasting consequences — hopefully positive.

Another thing to bear in mind is that high compensation and even excellent benefits may be insufficient to attract the talent you want. Most often, candidates are attracted to a role due to factors like company culture, your mission and values, the chance for professional development, and overall purpose. You’ll need to discuss what your company has to offer with the recruitment firm, and the firm can then extol the benefits to potential candidates.

The Difference Between Staffing and Recruiting

To summarize, staffing and recruiting differ in a few key ways. Staffing is for short-term positions, whereas recruiting is for permanent employees. The two options also involve searching in different places: through a staffing agency that attracts active candidates vs a recruitment firm that searches for passive candidates.

When to Use Staffing

Consider staffing when:

  • You have a short-term or contract position to fill
  • The role requires either specific skills or unskilled labor
  • You want to fill the position fast
  • You need to fill several positions, such as during an expansion
  • Training for the role is minimal

When to Use Recruiting

Consider recruiting when:

  • You want a permanent, full-time employee
  • There’s no urgency — you can wait until the right candidate comes along
  • You’re searching for candidates to fill high-level positions, such as in upper management or the c-suite

What Is Hiring?

There’s also a third option: hiring. This differs from both staffing and recruiting. Hiring usually means you search for and choose a candidate without any support from an agency or firm. You then create a job posting yourself and screen the applicants to decide who to interview. This process is ideal for finding mid-level, permanent employees who have experience and training in their field.

Hiring Tips

To be successful with hiring, you need to make the job appealing. This means highlighting the benefits of the position and offering competitive compensation. When choosing a candidate, you’ll want to pay attention to much more than just the skills necessary for the position — soft skills and personality are equally important.

Also note that you’ll need to dedicate plenty of time to the hiring process. As well as crafting a job post, you’ll need to spend time interviewing candidates and providing them with training.

Recruiting vs Staffing vs Hiring

To see how hiring is different from the other two options, let’s compare it to staffing and recruiting.

Unlike recruiting with a firm, hiring gives you the freedom to decide what questions to ask at the interview. This can include any tests and assessment activities to gauge a candidate’s skills, such as ability to work with others or lead a team. Since all this takes time, hiring is best suited to occasions when you are only looking to fill a few roles.

Another difference from recruiting is that hiring tends to favor active candidates over passive candidates. This is because active candidates are able to respond faster and the company can fill the role more quickly.

Like recruiting, you can use hiring when you want a permanent employee. However, you can also use hiring much like staffing: offering a short-term contract initially and then seeing how the employee performs. This is called “temp to hire” or a probation period.

With hiring, it’s always best to make the right decision from the start and find an employee who will be suitable for long-term employment. Although your HR department may retain the resumes from other candidates, many of them will have found other jobs by the time you contact them to let them know your initial choice was unsuccessful. This differs from staffing, where the agency stays in regular contact with its candidates, allowing you to switch to a different candidate if you’re unhappy with the first.

When to Use Hiring

Consider hiring when:

  • You need permanent workers, either full time or part time
  • You want to handle the process of finding workers yourself
  • There’s only one or a few positions you need to fill
  • You’re willing to put in the effort to onboard employees
  • You’d rather not pay for an agency
  • The job is for mid-level employees

The Right Choice for You

Once you know the differences between hiring, staffing, and recruiting, it should be more obvious what the right choice would be for your situation.

If the position is short term with only a possibility of becoming permanent, opt for staffing. This is also the best option if you need a worker urgently, especially for unskilled labor or specific core skills. If you’re looking for an employee to become a long-term member of your team, choose between either recruiting or hiring. Recruiting is the better choice for top-level positions, whereas hiring is more suitable for mid-level roles.

For staffing, choose MYVA360. Our virtual assistants can carry out a variety of activities, ranging from administrative support to social media management and bookkeeping. Plus, for core skills you have our extended team of designers, developers, and marketers. Schedule a consultation to be matched with a dedicated virtual assistant and receive 10 percent off our services.

Laura Holton

Laura is a professional writer specializing in content aimed at small businesses and entrepreneurs. She has helped countless startups find the information they needed to take their ventures to the next level.

Laura Holton

Laura is a professional writer specializing in content aimed at small businesses and entrepreneurs. She has helped countless startups find the information they needed to take their ventures to the next level.


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